Crash of Singapore Airlines Flight SQ006
Singapore Airlines (SIA) Flight SQ006, which was on its way to Los Angeles from Singapore via Taiwan, crashed on a closed runway at Chiang Kai-shek Airport (now called Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) during take-off on 31 October 2000 at 11.18 pm local time. The incident, which destroyed the aircraft and killed 83 people,1 was SIA’s first serious accident and marred its reputation of having a good safety record.2 Immediately after the accident, SIA changed the flight number to SQ030.3
At the time of the accident, heavy rainstorm and strong winds caused by typhoon Xangsane prevailed over Chiang Kai-shek Airport.4 The aircraft, a Boeing 747-400, started off once the airport cleared its departure from runway 05L at 11.15 pm. However, it took a right turn too soon and entered the wrong runway, 05R, which was closed for repairs.5
Due to the obscured visibility caused by the harsh weather, the flight crew did not see the construction equipment parked on the runway just over a kilometre away from where the take-off roll began. By the time the pilot noticed the equipment, it was too late to swerve the plane away from speeding towards the obstruction as the nose of the aircraft had already left the ground. At 11.17 pm, about 33 s after the take-off roll started, the plane collided with the parked equipment.6
The impact broke the plane into two and caused the filled fuel tank to explode. The large fire that followed destroyed the forward section of the aircraft and the wings, killing many seated in the middle section of the plane. Many others suffered burns. The fire was eventually extinguished at 12.00 am.7
Of the 179 people on board, 83 were killed. The four crew members who died were all cabin crew; the pilot and two co-pilots survived.8
A total of 80 representatives from Singapore, the United States, Australia and Taiwan were involved in the initial on-scene examination of the evidence, which was completed on 13 November 2000.9 However, the Taiwanese government allowed only investigators from the country’s Aviation Safety Council (ASC) to conduct the accident analysis, a move that raised the ire of Singapore officials.10
On 23 February 2001, ASC released a report detailing the facts pertaining to the incident. The final report of its analysis followed more than a year later, on 26 April 2002.11 Drafts of the report had been sent to the other parties involved, including Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT), and their comments were published as an appendix to the main report.12 On the same day, MOT released its own report on the accident, in response to what it saw as inadequacies in ASC’s analysis.13
MOT agreed with ASC on several key factors that led to the crash: The pilots took the wrong turn; the air traffic controllers who gave clearance for the take-off had no visual confirmation of the plane’s location; and there were no barriers blocking off the closed runway. However, it objected to the latter’s focus on pilot error as the main cause of the accident.14
According to ASC, the probable causes included the failure of the flight crew to review the taxi route adequately to understand that runway 05R had to be passed before taxiing onto runway 05L although they had all the relevant charts. It concluded that this coupled with the bad weather condition had caused the flight crew to lose situational awareness, ultimately leading to their attempt to take off from the wrong runway.15
On the other hand, MOT argued that the plane was led to the wrong runway due to the inadequate runway lighting and markings,16 and the absence of barriers and warnings to alert the flight crew of the runway closure. It also highlighted that the runways at Chiang Kai-shek Airport did not adhere to international standards.17
Taiwanese prosecutors investigated the three pilots for possible negligence but eventually did not pursue any criminal charges against them.18 Instead, the prosecutors recommended in July 2002 that two of the pilots, Captain Foong Chee Kong and First Officer Cyrano Latiff, have their licences suspended, perform 240 hours of community service in Singapore,19 and not fly into Taipei for one year.20 Soon after, SIA fired the two pilots.21 In October 2002, however, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced that the two men could register to have their licences reinstated.22 The third pilot, First Officer Ng Kheng Leng, who faced no charges as he was not at the controls that night,23 was not terminated.24
A few days after the incident, SIA had provided immediate financial relief of US$5,000 to each survivor, while for every passenger or crew member who perished, SIA had offered US$25,000 to their families.25 It was revealed soon after that SIA had offered US$400,000 to next-of-kin of victims who perished in the crash.26 However, over 30 survivors and families of crash victims rejected the offer and sued the airline for higher damages.27 A total of 40 lawsuits (26 involving passengers and 14 involving crew members) were filed against SIA in Singapore, and more than 60 passenger lawsuits were filed in the United States. All were settled out of court by October 2006.28
Fatimah Mehron Nisha
1. Singapore. Ministry of Transport, Analysis of the Accident to Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 006, Boeing 747-412, 9V-SPK at Chiang Kai-Shek Airport, Taipei, Taiwan, on 31 October 2000 (Singapore: Ministry of Transport, 2002), iv. (Call no. RSING 363.124650951249 SIN)
2. Donald Urquhart, “SQ006 Crash Pilots Can Apply to Reinstate Licences,” Business Times, 16 October 2002, 7. (From NewspaperSG); “Crash Tarnishes Clean Record,” BBC News, 1 November 2000.
3. Mahesha Thenabadu, “SQ006 No More. It’s Now Called SQ30,” Today, 2 December 2000, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Bad Weather to Be Blame,” Straits Times, 1 November 2000, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Aircraft Accident Report: Crashed on a Partially Closed Runway during Takeoff, Singapore Airlines Flight 006, Boeing 747-400, 9V-SPK, CKS Airport, Taoyuan, Taiwan, October 31, 2000,” Taiwan. Aviation Safety Council, 2000, v.
6. Singapore. Ministry of Transport, Analysis of the Accident to Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 006, iv; Taiwan. Aviation Safety Council, “Aircraft Accident Report, 21.
7. Chai Hung Yin, “83 Dead in SQ006 Crash,” New Paper, 9 August 2015, 55 (From NewspaperSG); “Taipei Airport a Hazard: Pilots,” Business Times, 8 November 2000, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “SQ006 Accident Investigation: Factual Data Collection Group Report: Survival Factors Group,” Taiwan, Aviation Safety Council, 22 February 2001, 5.
9. Goh Sui Noi, “Air-Crash Report Out on Friday,” Straits Times, 24 April 2002, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Lawrence Chung, “Singapore Left Out of Talks in SQ 006 Probe,” Straits Times, 27 March 2002, 1; Goh, “Air-Crash Report Out on Friday.”
11. Goh, “Air-Crash Report Out on Friday.”
12. Goh Sui Noi, “Decision on Final Report Due Today,” Straits Times, 23 April 2002, 4; Goh, “Air-Crash Report Out on Friday.”
13. Leslie Koh, Krist Boo and Karen Wong, “Taipei Report May Not Have All the Answers,” Straits Times, 26 April 2002, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Leslie Koh, “One Crash, Two Conclusions,” Straits Times, 27 April 2002, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Taiwan. Aviation Safety Council, “Aircraft Accident Report, v–vi; Lawrence Chung, “SIA and Taipei Airport Blamed in Mishap,” Straits Times, 5 July 2003, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Chung, “Singapore Left Out of Talks.”
17. Koh, “One Crash, Two Conclusions”; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, “Singapore MOT’s Comments to the Final Report of the Investigation into the SQ006 Accident,” press release, 26 April 2002. (From National Archives of Singapore)
18. Lawrence Chung and Chia Sue Ann, “Taiwan Will Not Prosecute SQ 006 Pilots,” Straits Times, 15 June 2002, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Karamjit Kaur, “SIA Terminates Services of Two SQ006 Pilots,” Straits Times (Overseas ed), 27 July 2002, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Chung and Chia, “Taiwan Will Not Prosecute SQ 006 Pilots.”
21. “Sacking of SQ006 Pilots Is SIA’s Decision – Ng Eng Hen,” (2002, July 27). Channel NewsAsia, 27 July 2002. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
22. Urquhart, “SQ006 Crash Pilots Can Apply to Reinstate Licences.”
23. Chung and Chia, “Taiwan Will Not Prosecute SQ 006 Pilots.”
24. Urquhart, “SQ006 Crash Pilots Can Apply to Reinstate Licences.”
25. “‘We’re Deeply Sorry’,” Straits Times, 2 November 2000, 6; “Quick Move into Crisis Control,” Straits Times, 2 November 2000, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Pauline Leong, “SIA May Face Massive Lawsuits,” Straits Times, 7 November 2000, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “Deadline to Sue,” Today, 30 October 2002, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Karamjit Kaur, “2 Cabin Crew Get Payouts as SIA Settles Last SQ006 Lawsuits in S’pore,” Straits Times, 17 October 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
Michael Richardson, “Airline Defends Safety Performance as Causes of Crash Are Studied: Singapore Air’s Record on the Line,” New York Times, 2 November 2000.
Shari Stamford Krause, Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses, and Applications (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 125–133. (Call no. R 363.1241 KRA)
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.